Striker Jack Midson's double had put the hosts in the ascendancy but goals either side of the break from debutant Daniel Jones and Tom Pope extended Vale's lead at the top of the table to two points.
A win would have seen the Dons leapfrog Plymouth into 22nd position - and out of the drop zone - but Ardley was heartened by his side's ability to match their in-form visitors.
"It's a point gained, they're a very good team and the longer the game went on, and when we went to 2-2, I thought we were up against it," said Ardley, whose side are now unbeaten in four games.
"But for half an hour we dug in and put in a performance that a couple of months ago we probably wouldn't have. I hope that point isn't something we're talking about at the end of the season, I hope we get away from trouble by then.
"It keeps the momentum going, it keeps the run going and against a very good team we did well. They are a really good side, Micky [Adams] has done a fantastic job there and they are good at what they do. I thought in the first half we matched them, I know we were two goals up but they still had more of the ascendancy, and in the second half it was always going to be tough."
Midson swept home Jim Fenlon's eighth-minute cross and then doubled his tally with a penalty after Liam Chilvers dragged down Pim Balkestein after 42 minutes. Jones responded immediately with a 35-yard strike and Pope latched on to Mat Mitchel-King's short backpass for his 27th goal of the season on the hour.
Vale boss Micky Adams said: "We needed to keep them quiet and unfortunately we gave them the impetus. There are no complaints about the penalty, it was a clear shirt pull, but then we get a lifeline with Daniel Jones' goal just before half-time. That was a killer blow for them and it gave us a bit of a lift.
"I thought [Jones] was composed, he took his time to get into the system, he's not used to the way we play. We give the full-backs a lot of freedom to play and get forward, and I think he got forward well and got some good balls into the box as the game wore on.
"We've got character, there's no doubt about that, we've got players who are used to winning games of football. To get any result away from home you need character, and we showed that in the second half."
- Sports & Recreation